Page last updated at 00:37 GMT, Tuesday, 7 July 2009 01:37 UK

UN condemns North Korean missiles

North Korean missile launch - photo released April 2009
Image released in April of a North Korean missile launch

The UN Security Council has condemned recent missile tests by North Korea, calling them a threat to regional and international security.

The council's Ugandan president said the firing of seven ballistic missiles on Saturday - US Independence Day - violated three existing resolutions.

UN resolutions ban North Korea from all ballistic missile-related activities.

UN sanctions were strengthened after Pyongyang carried out a second underground nuclear test in May.

North Korea is now banned from exporting all weapons and importing all but small arms. Under the terms, North Korean ships are also liable for inspection.

4 July - Seven suspected ballistic missiles fired
2 July - four short-range cruise missiles launched
25 May - second underground nuclear test brings new UN sanctions
25/26 May - series of short-range rockets fired
5 April - N Korea says long-range rocket was satellite launch

Ambassador Ruhakana Rugunda of Uganda, who chairs the council this month, told reporters the launches "constitute a violation of UN Security Council resolutions and pose a threat to regional and international security".

He said members of the 15-nation body had "condemned and expressed grave concern" over Saturday's launches, but also expressed their commitment to "a peaceful, diplomatic and political solution".

Japan's Ambassador, Yukio Takasu, who had requested the meeting, welcomed the council's statement.

Ship surveillance

The missile launches on Saturday were apparently timed to coincide with Independence Day in the United States - a similar volley was fired on the same day in 2006.

Saturday's seven Scud-type ballistic missiles had a range of about 500km (312 miles). The missiles fell into the Sea of Japan, known in South Korea as the East Sea.

Both South Korea and Japan called the launches an "act of provocation".

On Monday the US chief of naval operations, Adm Gary Roughead, said the launches were "very unhelpful".

His comments came as a North Korean ship being tracked by the US Navy aborted its voyage and returned home.

The Kang Nam 1, the first ship to be shadowed under UN sanctions imposed in June, was reported to have left North Korea bound for Myanmar on 17 June.

It remains unclear why the ship turned back or what goods it was carrying.

Ties between North Korea and the outside world have grown extremely tense since it walked away from six-nation talks aimed at ending its nuclear programme.

It subsequently said it would "weaponise" its plutonium stocks and start enriching uranium, prompting fears that it is working to produce nuclear warheads small enough to put on missiles - though analysts say it could take a long time to do so.

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